Old Testament Lesson 48 (Jonah; Micah)
November 20–26

INTRODUCTION

The “Minor Prophets”

●  Many people are reluctant to read the Old Testament because of its length.  Consider these facts:

—  In the new LDS edition of the Bible, there are 1184 pages in the Old Testament and 860 of these precede the writings of the prophets. This leaves only 324 pages from Isaiah to Malachi.

—  There are more pages in the New Testament (403) than in the Old Testament prophets (324).

—  The time covered by the writings of the prophets is quite short. All together they cover only 2 major time periods of just 50 years each, except for the last three prophets in our present-day Bible.

●  There are twelve “minor” prophets books [referred to as minor-meaning ‘small’] signifying the quantity rather than the quality of these books. Their messages are as vital as those of the major books.

— These prophets in order of their appearance in the Bible are: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.

—  Joel:  The time of the Prophet Joel’s ministry is in question—anywhere from before 900 to 400 BC. Joel called Israel to repentance, so he may have prophesied prior to their Assyrian captivity.  Or, he may have been addressing latter-day Israel (Joel 2:12–17).

The Role of Ancient Prophets

●  Matthew 16:4  The Lord called Jonah a “prophet.”  A “prophet” in Old Testament times had the gift of prophecy and was called by God to go forth as a spokesman for Him.

●  Amos 3:6–7  Amos gives important information about the call and role of a prophet of God.

The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “According to the testimony of the Scriptures in all ages of the world, whenever God was about to bring a judgment upon the world or accomplish any great work, the first thing he did was to raise up a Prophet, and reveal unto him the secret, and send him to warn the people, so that they may be left without excuse . . .  Prophets . . . warned the people . . . [even when] they . . . gave no heed . . . [and] rejected their testimony; . . . [then] the judgments came upon the people.”
(endnote: 1)

JONAH

The Book of Jonah

●  Matt. 12:38–41  During His earthly ministry, the Savior made specific mention of Jonah, using the episode with the whale as a symbol of his own death and resurrection (compare Luke 11:29–30; see also Matt. 16:4).

Professor David Rolph Seely said: “The book of Jonah teaches . . . much about the nature of God and man and ultimately has something profound to say about relationships, specifically . . . the relationship between a man and his Maker. . . .  We recognize ourselves in Jonah, we initially smile at his humanness—but by the end we are sobered, as we, like Jonah, are humbled by the grace of God and come to recognize our own hidden duplicities.”
(endnote: 2)

Jonah’s First Mission Call

●  Jonah, son of Amittai, was a northerner from the village of Gathhepher. He prophesied during the reign of Jeroboam II (786–46 BC) and accurately prophesied Israel’s territorial restoration (2 Kings 14:25).

●  Jonah 1:1–2   The Lord called Jonah to preach repentance in Nineveh.

— The great city of Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian empire, which in the day of Jonah was the intellectual, cultural, artistic, and technological center of the ancient civilized world. It had terraces, arsenals, barracks, libraries, and temples.

— It was built on the upper Tigris River shortly after the Great Flood by the infamous King Nimrod, so by the time of Jonah this city was already more than 1,200 years old.

— Ancient writers describe the city as a fortress with walls 100 feet high and wide enough at the top to permit three chariots to be driven abreast on top of it. Beyond the walls were great suburbs, towns, and villages.

— The population is variously estimated from 300,000 to more than a million.

—  Jonah 3:4   The circumference of the great city was about sixty miles—a “great city of three days’ journey,” meaning it required three days of walking to cross it.

●  Nahum 3:1–4   The prophet Nahum later described the crimes of the Assyrians.

— Their king, Assurnasirpal, launched his armies in all directions, using the most depraved forms of barbaric terror to crush resistance. His own stone carvings boast of his sadistic cruelty:

○ Chaining them in cages where people could torture and torment them for amusement.
○ Gouging out their eyes.
○ Blinding children before the eyes of their parents.
○ Flaying (skinning) ) men alive.
○ Burying them alive.
○ Impaling them on stakes.
○ Cutting off arms and legs and feeding them to the dogs and swine.
○ Passing cords through their lips, by which they led them around.
○ Tearing their tongues from their mouths.
○ Crushing them with their chariots.
○ Roasting captives in kilns.
○ Offering them as burnt offerings to their gods.
○ Making monuments out of their corpses.

●  Jonah 1:3–17   Jonah wanted nothing to do with these vicious people. He fled from the Lord and was swallowed by a great fish.

— Jonah “rose up” immediately but went in the opposite direction—toward Tarshish (Spain) which was “the end of the earth” in those days (v. 3). Jonah departed from Joppa (present-day Jaffa or Tel Aviv), a Mediterranean seaport in Israel.

— A great storm arose while they were at sea, and all of those on the ship feared for their lives. They offered sacrifices to all their gods (including Jehovah) to no avail. Jonah realized that the storm’s cause was that he was on board, fleeing from his mission to Nineveh. He told them to through him overboard and the seas would calm. They resisted doing this at first, seeking to save his life.

—  Irony #1:   The sailors, pious Gentiles, feared Jehovah, the Israelite God, and offered sacrifices to him. They were concerned for Jonah’s welfare and sought to save him, while Jonah, a disobedient Israelite, was fleeing from a mission to save other disobedient Gentiles (v. 16).

●  Do we also run away from missionary work today?

Elder David B. Haight said, “In behalf of the Brethren, this is a call for retired couples to seriously consider serving a mission. We desperately need more couples to help meet our needs. . . . Less than 50 percent of the requests for couple missionaries from [our] mission presidents are being filled. . . .  The Brethren hope that many, many more couples will make themselves available for full-time service to the Church. The need is great! Hundreds of thousands of new members join the Church each year, and they need to hear a friendly voice of support and comfort from experienced members. The refrain, ‘I’ll go where you want me to go, dear Lord’ (Hymns, 1985, no. 270), should be more than a hymn we sing on Sunday. It should be our own prayer of faith as we serve wherever the Lord has need of us.”
(endnote: 3)

●  Jonah 2:1–10   Jonah was tossed into the sea, and the waves immediately subsided. He was preserved in the belly of a great fish which the Lord prepared to swallow him. A humbled Jonah prayed for deliverance, and the fish “vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.”

Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said, “Are we to reject it as being an impossibility and say that the Lord could not prepare a fish, or whale, to swallow Jonah? . . .  Surely the Lord sits in the heavens and laughs at the wisdom of the scoffer, and then on a sudden answers his folly by a repetition of the miracle in dispute, or by the presentation of one still greater. . . . I believe . . . the story of Jonah. My chief reason for so believing is not in the fact that it is recorded in the Bible, or that the incident has been duplicated in our day, but in the fact that Jesus Christ, our Lord, believed it [Matt. 12:38–41].
(endnote: 4)

Jonah’s Second Mission Call

●  Jonah 3:1–10   Nineveh repented because of Jonah’s preaching. Jonah bravely proclaimed: “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown” (v. 4). Much to his surprise—and chagrin—all of Nineveh repented, from the king to  the lowliest of beasts, hoping God would turn away his anger, which he did (vv. 5–10).

The Lord Teaches Jonah about Mercy

●  Jonah 4:1–5   Jonah became angry when the Lord did not destroy Nineveh.

—  Irony #2:   Jonah, who on his first mission was willing to give up his own life to save his fellow sailors, now was displeased and very angry at the demonstration of the Lord’s mercy to preserve a penitent Nineveh, and he wanted to die (v. 3).

Professor David Rolph Seely wrote, “Jonah didn’t like Assyrians, a not uncommon position held by many of the Northern Kingdom in the time of Jonah, for they were his enemies. And Israelites were not alone in their resentment of the often cruel and uncompromising rule of the mighty Assyrian empire. While not eager to preach to them in the first place, he found solace in preaching his message only when he could anticipate their ultimate destruction.”
(endnote: 5)

—  Irony #3:   Prophets in Israel often functioned as mediators—pleading for mercy for the unrighteous. Jonah did the opposite, pleading for judgment against the repentant.  Elijah sought the Lord in sorrow over the hardness of the people’s hearts and wished to die because they rejected him (1 Kings 19).  Jonah was angry and wanted to die because they had repented.

●  Jonah 4:6–11   The Lord helped Jonah understand why Nineveh was spared.

—  The Lord miraculously provided a gourd (plant) to give Jonah shade, then destroyed it (vv. 6–9).  When Jonah complained, he used the gourd as an object lesson—saying that Jonah cared more for the gourd than for people.

—  “Unable to discern between their right hand and their left” may refer to those of lesser intelligence or religious understanding (vv. 10–11). More likely, it refers to innocent children. (Deut. 1:39 and Isa. 7:16).

MICAH

The Book of Micah

The message of the book of Micah is that the Lord will bring judgment upon evildoers while showing mercy and forgiveness to those who repent and follow His statutes and remember His covenants.

The Ministry of the Prophet Micah

Micah, a prophet of Judah, prophesied during the reign of King Hezekiah (Hezekiah ascended the throne around 728 BC and reigned for 29 years). Thus Micah was a contemporary of both Hosea and Isaiah.

The name Micah (Hebrew, mika) is an abbreviated form of Micaiah (Hebrew, mikayah or mikayahu), meaning, “Who is like Jehovah?” He was a Morasthite, from Moreshethgath, about 25 miles southwest of Jerusalem in the Shephelah, near the border between Judah and the Philistines (Micah 1:1; Jeremiah 26:18–19).

Micah Denounced Wickedness and Prophesied Punishments

●  Micah identified Israel’s sins:

— Israelites were working evil on their beds (Micah 2:1).
— Coveting and violently taking family properties (Micah 2:2).
— Forbidding true prophets to prophesy (Micah 2:6).
— Stripping and devouring the temporal possessions of their people (Micah 3:1–3).
— Encouraging false prophets to deceive and misguide the people (Micah 3:5).
— Abhorring justice and perverting equity—judging and teaching for money, and prophets divining for money (Micah 3:9–11).
— Using wicked balances and deceitful weights (Micah 6:11).
— Rich men were full of violence and lies (Micah 6:12).
— They followed the statutes of Omri and the works of the house of Ahab (meaning idol worship with impure sexual rites in high places) (Micah 6:16).

●  Micah prophesied that the Lord would come in judgment and destroy the wicked.

— They will receive the punishment of desolation, hissing, and reproach (Micah 6:16).
— The Lord will make Samaria “an heap” and lay bare its foundations (Micah 1:6).
— Zion (Jerusalem) will be plowed as a field and “become heaps (Micah 3:12).”
— Zion (Jerusalem) will go to Babylon, but they will later be delivered (Micah 4:10).

D. Kelly Ogden said: “One needs only to visit the site of ancient Samaria to view the literal fulfillment of the prophet’s words. The foundations of Samaria were laid bare by the Assyrian conquerors in 721 BC—during Micah’s ministry—and Jerusalem, though spared for another century, was eventually desolated by the armies of Babylon (and centuries later, the Temple Mount was literally plowed by the Roman soldiers of Titus). In the predicted destruction of both cities, Micah used the word heap, which in Hebrew means ‘ruin.’ Both Samaria and Jerusalem were left a pile of ruins, the latter several times over.”
(endnote: 6)

Micah Prophesied of Great Blessings in Later Times

●  Micah 2:12–13   The Lord will gather a remnant of Israel—a great multitude that He will lead.

●  Micah 4:1–2   The Lord’s house will be built in the “top of the mountains”; all nations will gather to it. Isaiah said the same thing (Isaiah 2:2–3). Micah and Isaiah were contemporaries and likely knew each other’s writings.

●  Micah 4:8–13   Israel will be redeemed and the Lord and have dominion over all their enemies.

●  Micah 5:5–15   The remnant of Jacob will bless the Gentiles in the last days.

— v. 7  They will be “as a dew from the Lord, as the showers upon the grass.” In biblical imagery, dew and showers always suggest nourishment, peace, relief, and blessing. The remnant of Jacob in the latter days will be a blessing to the Gentiles.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “Israel has been scattered among all the nations of the earth and has acted as a leavening and enlightening influence wherever her scattered remnants have found lodgement.”
(endnote: 7)

— v. 8  No power on earth will be able to hinder the work. The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purpose of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.”
(endnote: 8)

Micah’s Prophesies of the Millennium and Messiah

●  Micah 4:3–7   Micah prophesied of the millennial era of peace in which the Lord would reign over his people. Isaiah said similar things (Isaiah 2:4–5).

●  Micah 5:1–4   Micah prophesied of the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem and of the Messiah’s allowing Israel to suffer tribulations until they receive him in the last days.

Micah’s Warnings Were Effective

●  Micah 6:7–8   Possibly the most sublime counsel given by the prophet Micah: “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”

●  Micah 7:18–20   Micah spoke of Jehovah’s greatness, mercy, and compassion. In the end He will fulfill all Abrahamic covenants and bestow all promised blessings.

●  Jeremiah 26:18–19   Jeremiah noted, a century after Micah’s time, that Micah’s ministry was effective in deterring the people from their predicted fate because Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah beseeched the Lord and repented. The Lord then turned away the evil which he had pronounced against them.

FOOTNOTES

1: History of the Church, 6:23.

2: In Kent Jackson, ed., Studies in Scripture, Vol. 4: 1 Kings to Malachi [1970].

3: “Couple Missionaries: ‘A Wonderful Resource,'” Ensign, Feb. 1996, 7, 12.

4: Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Elder Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 2:314–315.

5: Studies in Scripture, Vol. 4: 1 Kings to Malachi [1970].

6: Studies in Scripture, Vol. 4: 1 Kings to Malachi [1970].

7: Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], 678.

8: The Wentworth Letter, March 1, 1842, History of the Church, 4:540.

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